Local baseball foes are top-3 friends in the end

All year long, the baseball teams from Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos have been battling each other, and each team has beaten the other two.

After an up-for-grabs race in the Channel League, the Dons finished first, the Royals second and the Chargers third.

“I’m proud of that because it’s a clean sweep over the Ventura schools,” said Santa Barbara assistant coach George Rempe at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, the last of the year.

“That’s really a good thing. Even though we try to beat each other’s brains out, when it’s all said and done it’s nice that it’s all in Santa Barbara,” he added.

For the Dons, it was their fourth title in five years and their ninth since the league re-shaped itself 12 years ago. They sealed it with two wins over Buena last week, led by seven RBIs and three homers from Collin Dewell, who also made a fantastic catch in centerfield and pitched some solid innings in relief.

Rempe also introduced juniors Spencer Fraker and Nick Below. Fraker was the team’s starting left-fielder until he busted his ankle early in the season, but he will be back next year and Rempe described him as “one of the most metally tough kids I’ve ever coached.”

Below, who can play infield, outfield and pitcher, is at the top of his class academically.

The Dons open up the playoffs on Friday with a home game against either Los Osos or A.B. Miller.

BASEBALL

DOS PUEBLOS: What a week it was for the Chargers, who won their final three games to make the playoffs.

“We had a fun practice on Monday. I wanted the kids to have fun, because I was kind of assuming it was our last practice of the year,” said coach Nate Mendoza.

That’s not because he felt his squad didn’t have a chance to win its games. Rather, he thought that the playoffs were already an impossibility. After the next day’s 9-2 loss at Harvard-Westlake, he was certain they couldn’t get in.

But the Chargers played like everything was on the line, winning three games in three days to make it. Male Athlete of the Week Steven Reveles, a junior shortstop, was the catalyst of the offense as any good leadoff man should be. He had a game-tying two-run double in the bottom of the seventh as DP came back from a 5-0 deficit against San Marcos to win in walkoff fashion.

The next day against Campbell Hall, he led off with a triple and also hit a solo homer. In Friday’s play-in game against Buena, he hit a leadoff homer and went 3-for-3 with a walk.

Mendoza pointed out an interesting local-sports trivia fact about the Reveles family, noting that Steven’s older brother Michael and father Val (who was at Harry’s on Monday) were also recipients of the award during their careers.

Also tagging along were two baby-faced freshmen who played like veterans during the crucial week. Ben York, who hit over .300 as the team’s starting second baseman this year, had three hits in the comeback against San Marcos. Gabe Speier, meanwhile, was the winning pitcher against the Royals and Bulldogs, giving up a total of three runs over eight innings.

Mendoza thanked rival coaches Rempe and Rob Crawford (of San Marcos) for their encouragement during the week, as both made phone calls to Mendoza before the Buena game to wish him luck.

“It was great having that support, especially from teams you’re trying to beat all the time,” said Mendoza. “Especially San Marcos, because we’d just gotten into a huge battle with them on Wednesday. For him to call me two days later and wish me luck showed a lot of class, and I appreciate it very much from both you guys.”

DP hosts Loyola on Tuesday.

SAN MARCOS: The Royals’ road to the playoffs also provided a great storyline. They began their conference campaign at a lowly 1-4, but won six of their last seven. Last year was the team’s first postseason berth in 12 years, and making it in back-to-back seasons proves the turn-around is no fluke.

“San Marcos High School’s history in baseball has not been the most impressive, and so we’re excited to see a change in that,” said Crawford.

He wanted to bring players with him to the luncheon, but those who had the free period were busy bonding over hot dogs at their own “selection show.” The team was huddled around the computer in anticipation of the 1 p.m. release of the CIF brackets, which ended up telling them that they would host Tuesday’s wild-card game against Nipomo.

UCSB: Nearly every coach used some time at the podium to thank the Round Table for all that it doesn, including UCSB’s Bob Brontsema.

“It’s a pleasure to come here and see how the youth of America grows and what they’ve done, how well they’ve done and how they do it. It’s a pleasure to be here,” he said.

The Gauchos still have hopes of finishing in the top half of the mighty Big West this season, and pitcher Jesse Meaux salvaged the weekend series over nationally ranked UC Irvine with a stellar complete-game, one-run victory on Sunday. They play at UCLA on Tuesday before finishing up with two conference series against UC Davis and Pacific.

SPECIAL OLYMPIAN OF THE MONTH

This month’s honoree is Ivan Diffenderfer, who is a standout in bocce ball, floor hockey and tennis. His coach, Sue McHugh, said that Diffenderfer has a “wicked forehand” on the tennis court.

“It’s such an honor to have him on any team,” said McHugh. “He has the best attitude I’ve seen… Ivan gives 110-percent and is so supportive of his teammates. He’s so positive that it makes being a coach a wonderful thing.”

TRACK AND FIELD

SAN MARCOS: The Royals had an outstanding meet at the CIF Prelims over the weekend, including a first-place finish and school record (3:56.56) in the 4×400 relay. The finals will be this weekend in Cerritos.

Coach Marilyn Hantgin introduced assistant coach Anthony Garibay as well as four of her top female athletes. Marie Brashears picked up her best time in the 800 meters over the weekend and also ran on the record-breaking relay team. Sophomore Kailyn Koopmans, meanwhile, won her heat in the 400. Elysia Hodges ran the 4×400, 4×100 (third place), 200 and 300 hurdles. Her time in the hurdles (25.60) placed her fourth all-time in the school record books.

Hannah McDaniel passed another runner on the anchor leg of the 4×400 and is moving on in four events.

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: For the second consecutive week, the Female Athlete of the Week is a member of the UCSB Track and Field team. Danielle Dominechelli won Big West titles in the 5,000 and 10,000 last week, and her time in the 5,000 (16:39.22) was one second short of the meet record.

TENNIS

SANTA BARBARA HIGH: So far, so good for the mighty Dons, who bet Redondo Union 15-3 in the first round of CIF and Westlake 14-4 in the second round. Next up is a road match at Woodbridge on Tuesday, and should the Dons advance they’ll face Corona del Mar, which knocked out Dos Pueblos last week.

Coach Steve Geremia introduced senior captain Matt Baum, who won a 3-set match in a victory over CDM earlier in the year. Also at the luncheon were Chris Grant and Logan Liddell, who comprise the Dons’ No. 3 doubles squad. Their job, according to Geremia, is to beat the other team’s No. 3 team, and if they don’t beat the No. 2 opponent they need to wear them out as much as possible.

The Dons will also have Channel League champion Chase Melton and two doubles teams competing at the CIF Individuals at Cate on Friday.

SOFTBALL

DOS PUEBLOS: The Chargers took second in the Channel League after a roller-coaster season.

“We ended up very nicely after a slow start, and it’s that old adage ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish… I’m very proud of the team,” said assistant coach Lee Harris.

He introduced two players who are stars on the diamond and in the classroom. Freshman Agnetta Cleland carried a 4.4 GPA and led the league in on-base percentage at .528. Sophomore Hannah Harris will be honored at Monday’s SBART Hall of Fame Banquet as Player of the Year after finishing in the top three in every major offensive and pitching category. She pitched 20 complete games on the year, and carries a 4.2 GPA.

The Chargers will open CIF play at Cabrillo on Thursday.

BISHOP DIEGO: The Cardinals were happy to finish above .500, having picked up wins over the likes of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara High this season. The team is petitioning for its first playoff appearance since 2003. Athletic Director Dan Peeters introduced sophomore catcher Victoria Swan, who carries a 3.5 GPA, and freshman Dani Devries, who has made several key plays over the year. She carries a 4.2 GPA.

SWIMMING

BISHOP DIEGO: The Cardinals’ two-person swim team was also in the house. Freshman Joshua Chevez, who is a straight-A student with a talent for singing, had personal bests times in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke at the Frontier League finals.

Shannon Slaught, meanwhile, is the most dominant swimmer in the league, earning titles in the 50 free and 100 breast. She went to the Division IV finals, finishing third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 breast. She’s shaved an incredible seven seconds off of her time in the 100 breast over the past six months, and has a realistic shot at becoming the school’s first-ever CIF swimming champion next year.

THE BIG CHECK: Randy Weiss of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust proudly presented SBART President Catharine Manset-Morreale with one of those big checks you see at golf tournaments or on a game show. It was for a big amount as well, $10,000, to go towards continuing sponsorship of the weekly luncheons.

“It’s all about celebrating all kids and all athletes, regardless of the challenges they have. It’s the whole package, and it’s our pleasure to be your luncheon sponsor,” said Weiss. ‘We’re there for the long haul.”

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